Creating Active Outdoor Opportunities for All

By Allison Tubbs, Project Coordinator, NCHPAD

NCHPAD is happy to be a supporter of this year’s Park and Recreation Month led by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). This July, NRPA wants everyone to discover the power of play and adventure! For people with disabilities, discovering the power of play starts with access, opportunity, and inclusion. Health inequity and disparities are caused by lack of access to healthy opportunities. Through organized efforts to create opportunities for people with disabilities, we can address health disparities that lead to physical inactivity.

Physical inactivity is high among all children and those with disabilities experience 4.5 times greater levels of inactivity. Adults with disabilities are more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle and 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without a disability. Encouraging active play is a great way to get children and adults more physically active! Given equal access to outdoor spaces, all people can play and be physically active regardless of age, income, or ability.

The National Council on Disability concluded that environmental factors are considered the most important access barrier. In terms of outdoor facilities and trail usage, the lack of knowledge about actual on-site conditions was the greatest barrier among people with disabilities. Other elements that affect physical accessibility include parking, routes to and through the facility, entrances, bathrooms, seating, counter and table heights, and more. While not every outdoor area can be fully accessible—because no one wants to pave the wilderness—more can be done to provide access through opportunity and choice.